Greetings from Caffè Nero in Dublin, Ireland, where I have retreated to caffeinated comfort from the spitting rain, after stuffing down this enormous faux meat “doner kebab” from the Shova Vegan Butcher:
This was after a three hour tour of the National Museum of Ireland, famous for both its price (free!) and its many centuries-old bog bodies:
I have two weeks to spend in Ireland, and have planned NOTHING. All of my focus was on those glorious few hours alone in an airplane bound for Europe. That’s how badly I needed a vacation: all I thirsted for was some protected time away from phone calls, emails, and other people.
Meanwhile, though, the Blonde Girl has sent me photographic evidence that our socially awkward quadrupedal adopted son has made a new friend, some sort of (equally adorable) hairless canine bat creature:
My trip to Dublin began with a well timed journey to Toronto airport on the subway, aligned perfectly to scheduled departure time. What I had not counted on was that the subway would be stopped and boarded by the police, who then went on a car-to-car chase for a knife-wielding perpetrator who kept zipping in and out of the car I was in.
Interestingly, no one panicked. No one pulled out their cell phones to record it. Most people sat quietly, a little perturbed at being inconvenienced. And a few people even giggled noticeably. That’s where we are now, people, where knife-wielding miscreants chased by cops garner naught but a snicker.
At the airport, I was once more “randomly” selected for additional security screening, which brings my frequency of selection to… let me see… carry the four…. 100%.
I was ready for it, of course. I had no pockets, no metal or coins or jewelry. The dude even said, “you’re the most prepared traveler I’ve ever had.” I know, I told him. This isn’t my first time getting a medical exam in an airport.
As an interesting aside, our security line was halted when the dude managing it saw a little girl crying. He took her out of the line and back to the non-travelers section to see her father. This held up the process by several minutes, and I’m sure some people were pissed off. But I was 100% okay with this kind of abuse of power.
Arriving in Dublin was remarkably pleasant. I’m used to traveling to difficult parts of the world, where climate, crime, language and technology conspire to raise my blood pressure and keep me on constant alert. As a charming, developed nation in the Anglosphere, Ireland offers none of those challenges. Instead, I was faced with two immigration lines, one for Europeans and one for non-Europeans.
Straight forward, right? Apparently many found this challenging. The young Irishman shooing people along had to make an announcement. “Europeans to the right, and non-Europeans to the left,” he said. Then paused. Then added, “And yes, Ireland is in Europe.”
Now, as you know, Ireland is famous for many things, including the black stout they call Guinness. I was never a big fan until my 40th birthday 12 years ago. On that very day, I was on a train in Ontario and was struck with a craving for Guinness, so flagged down the porter and bought one. And I haven’t looked back since. So I’ve been looking forward to my very first proper pint of Guinness poured and savoured in a true Irish pub. And here it is:
While I have come to Ireland for some alone time (which I am unsurprisingly spending walking long distances from coffee shop to coffee shop), it was a touching moment of synchronicity to find myself in the same city as two old (well, almost as old as me) high school friends John and Kristine (and their respective families). So that first Guinness was shared with these fine folks:
You will note that I look like someone’s demented uncle released from the sanitorium on a day pass. The reason is that the water here is quite soft. So my washed hair is frustratingly light. I hate this feeling.
Next week is my birthday, which I stopped celebrating two years ago. But today is the birthday of a certain good friend who has been known on this blog for almost 20 years by his pseudonym, E.K. Hornbeck. “E.K.”, like me is a lover of literature, literary history, and the power of literature to reflect and shape the identity of a people. I shared with him some of my impressions of Dublin, and he was excited.
Here, the street signs are in both English and Irish Gaelic (hereafter called simply Irish). It seems Irish is taught to children here, and is a mandatory second language for all public officials, despite the fact that it has no application to the wider world. This is something to be celebrated, to my mind. The efforts of a people to preserve their hard won history is admirable, and I am touched by it (as is “E.K.”).
Similarly, the museum is –as all national museums should be– free. A people should be able to access their history without cost. When you are beset by challenges to your identity from the presses of a global economy whose demands on your attention, currency, and very being are such that the temptation to assimilate into the grand sea of homogeneous English-speaking hipster pedantry, then the simple act of making available the specifics of your cultural product and history to the people who properly own them is an act of proper preservation.
To quote my favourite TV show, “Draw from your past, but do not let your past draw from you.”
At the pub last night, a gaggle of young folk had a pleasant singalong. At least one young man had a transcendent voice, and I wondered if this talent was atypical for Dubliners or just one more issue of the long line of Dublin poets. I must admit, I felt a twang of envy for the assembled youth, to be starting their young lives right, discovering each other anew within the warm confines of beer and song.
Mind you, if I had witnessed the same scene in Canada, I would have dismissed the lot as an annoying collection of hipster posers. So clearly I’m in a more accepting mood.
I had given some thought to heading to Killarney tomorrow. But I realized I had prepaid for three more nights in Dublin. So that solves that. More long walks to endure!
But it isn’t all joyful. We have a spycam set up in the new house in Ottawa, and the blonde girl has gone to work. But I can see that my sweet boy is parked at the window, barking for us once every ten seconds. It’s heartbreaking:
I wish he could read emails.